The Bastille as Maenclochog in Last Invasion of Britain
Thursday, July 14 was July 14, France’s national holiday.
It celebrates the Fête de la Fédération, celebrated for the first time on July 14, 1790, on the occasion of the French Revolution, embodied by the storming of the Bastille a year earlier.
At the time of the storming, Bastille was a military fortress and a political prison and a symbol of the monarchy.
But did you know there is a connection to Bastille in Pembrokeshire?
Here we are looking at the connection.
In Maenclochog there is a property called La Bastille which is now a detached house. Yet it was an important place in the village.
It is believed to have been built in 1029 with the cornerstones of the old castle from that period.
It was used as a prison in the city and renamed La Bastille after becoming a home for prisoners of war during the French invasion of Fishguard in 1797 – the last invasion of the UK.
In February 1797, nearly eight years after the storming of the Bastille in France, around 1,400 French soldiers in four ships sailed from Camaret on February 18 to implement a “shrewd plan” of the Directory – the French revolutionary government – to “liberate” the poor British who would then rally in support of the French.
Colonel William Tate – an Irish American man in his sixties – was assigned to lead the invasion using a motley army of those not required by Napoleon Bonaparte elsewhere in Europe.
The original plan was to land in Bristol and once the city was destroyed they would move to Wales and then march north to Chester and Liverpool.
But the winds made that impossible, so Colonel Tate moved instead to land near Cardigan Bay. On February 22, the ships were about to land at Fishguard but were spooked by cannon fire which was to warn of the approaching warships.
Instead, they landed at Carreg Wastad Point in the early hours of the following morning, the troops unloading at around 2 a.m. alongside weapons and around 47 barrels of gunpowder.
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Rather than move, the French troops – mostly made up of prisoners and deserters – set about looting supplies recently taken from a beached Portuguese ship and enjoying their spoils.
On 25 February the French surrendered to the Pembroke Yeomanry led by Lord Cawdor.
On his surrender, Colonel Tate said they had encountered “line troops numbering several thousand”, but they were met by far fewer than that – with only about 300 men waiting for them, and it was thought that they had mistaken the local women in their traditional dress from a distance for troops.
12 of the French soldiers were allegedly arrested by a local woman called Jemima Nicholas, armed only with a pitchfork, and locked them in St Mary’s Church in Fishguard and a number of Frenchmen were held in La Bastille according to the archives of the Pembrokeshire.
Locals hold parades to mark the 225th anniversary of the last invasion, led by ‘Jemima Nicholas’ and the current Pembroke Yeomanry.
It was transformed from a jail into a home sometime in the 1800s or early 1900s.
Pembrokeshire records hold a transfer plan from 1935 where the ‘dwelling house and garden known as La Bastille, formerly the old police station’ was transferred to a new owner for £150.
From Paris to Pembrokeshire… on #Bastille Day here is a 1935 transfer project for a property called La Bastille in Maenclochog. The name La Bastille comes from the property used to house prisoners of war following the French invasion at Fishguard in 1797. pic.twitter.com/xQfUOBtFID
— Pembrokeshire Archives/Archifdy Sir Benfro (@PembsArchives) July 14, 2022
The Bastille has remained a home ever since and is currently undergoing a major renovation.